Reading the Gospel story of the blind man of Jericho (Mark 10:46-52) never fails to inspire my own faith in the Lord Jesus. For this Lent, especially appropriate to the Year of Faith that we are celebrating, I wish to contemplate with you this passage from scripture.
Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, had spent much of his life without sight. He had heard about Jesus of Nazareth and all the wonderful things Jesus had said and done – he knew that Jesus had a reputation among the people as a healer.
Many modern people including Catholics know about Jesus but, like Bartimaeus, through various circumstances of life have not yet encountered Him personally. If we allow it, this Year of Faith can be that opportune time for each one of us to encounter the person of the Risen Lord.
When he heard that Jesus was nearby, Bartimaeus tried to call out to Him: “Son of David, have pity on me.” The title that Bartimaeus chose to address Jesus is significant. Instead of just “Jesus” he used ‘Son of David’ which was reserved for the One who is awaited by the Jewish people – the Messiah of God.
Bartimaeus’ humble cry revealed his faith to all around him – that he recognised Jesus as the Holy One promised for the salvation of Israel.
The hope that God cares for us is etched into the human heart. Even if we have fallen away from the Church, or because of scandal grown distant from our Catholic past – this desire for God is still present within us.
I pray that you will never ignore this longing for God’s love, and allow it to move you. In turn, God will reciprocate by drawing near, like Jesus to Bartimaeus.
It is a fact that this desire can be suppressed by others. Just as Bartimaeus was scolded and ordered to remain quiet, we too may find ourselves being told to stay silent about God. If Bartimaeus had obeyed the bystanders, he would have remained blind.
What about us? Sometimes our culture or the climate that we live in may discourage us from expressing our desire for God – but we have to imitate the blind beggar and call out to Jesus despite the obstacles in our way. We must not be content to remain blind to God’s presence in our world.
We are told how Bartimaeus reacted when he heard Jesus summoning him: “Throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus” (v. 51).
If only we have the same eagerness when we are called to be close to God! What kind of risk are we willing to take as followers of Jesus? What is our own insecurity that needs to be cast off before we can be free to approach Christ in our lives?
Even when face-to-face with God, we have to decide about our own destiny. God does not presume to choose on our behalf.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked Bartimaeus. I wonder what your answer will be when God poses the same question to you? Will your request come from the bottom of your heart, like the blind beggar?
I invite you during this Lenten season to examine your life: have you lost something very important that you wish returned? It could be innocence, joy, a treasured relationship, a good attitude to life, or even faith itself.
Have the bold spirit of Bartimaeus and ask Jesus: “Master, let me see again.” I believe that the Lord’s life giving power – that restores light to our darkness – will not disappoint you.
Then we will have Easter joy as Bartimaeus did, following the Master and living first-hand the saving love of God through faith in Christ Jesus. That will be Good News indeed!
I extend my blessing to you and your families and loved ones. May you have a blessed Lent and a joyous Easter.
Archbishop Nicholas Chia